Contrary is as contrary does

Busy, busy, busy.

Me and the dogs overslept a little today.  We didn’t wake up until almost 6am.  Biscuit is due for breakfast and shots by 7 am, so I like to get up about 5:30, stretch, walk around the back yard with a cup of coffee, see what there is to see.  Today I had to hit the floor running – I hate that.  I had to squeeze my eyes to focus and take a deep breath before I wrapped my gnarled old hand around that hypo. I always squeeze the needle empty a couple of times, loosens it up, makes it easier to fill, easier to empty once you get it stuck in her neck.

The other day she let out a YIPE! when I stuck it in there. That rattled me pretty good, but we got right back on the horse and finished the shot. I lost my repulsion for shots years ago – my veins are sinewy and tough, it’s always a wrestling match for me, poke, poke, SORRY!, and poke again. I am as tough as an old cactus.  Biscuit has got used to it too.  She seems to know it’s medicine, it makes her feel better, so she bears with it. In the beginning Badges was actually jealous, so my husband would cap the needle and give Badges a pretend shot.  Badges got over it, but he still gets a big pet when we give her the shot. Lovin’s aaaaalllll the way around.

My husband has gone to Southern  California to collect our younger son and all his stuff from the little college he’s attended the last couple of years. He took my older son to make a road trip out of it, they will have a little fun, snapping pictures of weird stuff up and down Hwy 395.

I’m so glad it rained. My husband has set out plants in our garden but he hasn’t finished hooking up all the drip lines yet, and stuff needs to be watered every  day.  I would have been out there for an hour last night if not for that nice gully washer. Everything looks great this morning. 

This year I have planted strawberries again. The terra cotta pots did not work out, too hard to water. Right now they are sitting full of dirt in my cactus garden, waiting for me to have the time to fill them with something really, really drought tolerant, probably a little flowering cactus. 

Empty bowls.

Empty bowls.

I bought two sixpacks of strawberry plants, somewhere, can’t remember – $3.50 each. I knew they’d have babies – runners that produce new plants – but not so fast! I started with 12 plants and now I think I have 20 or more, and more runners. 

Oh yeah, there’s berries – me and Biscuit have been  enjoying almost a berry a day. I eat the end off and toss her the top. She catches it and eats it, lickety split.  But – trouble in Paradise – we’ve got poachers. Every morning I find a few more that have been eaten right off the stem. 

See where somebody has eaten a ripe berry right off the stem.

See where somebody has eaten a ripe berry right off the stem.

I had gone to such lengths, People, it’s so frustrating. In  the pots, the berries were open to all kinds of interlopers. Pillbugs and slugs, who can eat a berry in a sitting, were living right in the pots, I couldn’t kill them all without resorting to some sort of nasty poison. So, I put each plant in it’s own sterile pot, with good clean new potting soil, and I put them on this ramshackle table my husband made me out of my grandma’s old redwood wheelchair ramp (we don’t throw anything away, haven’t I got that across yet?) and some 2×4’s. I mean, it’s standing chest high, what the hell? 

The other poachers are our blue jay family. One year I watched them eat all my raspberries – BAM! They weren’t even ripe yet, I’d been watering and waiting for weeks.  One day as I hung my laundry, I watched as our resident bluejays stormed my raspberry vine and snatched every last one, right in front of me.  They did the same with the strawberry pots, they’re so damned smart. 

We love our bluejays. There is a new batch of fledglings almost every year, they nest right near the garden where they can be near to fresh turned dirt and automatic sprinklers.  They’re like our small, wing-ed dogs, they get so comfortable with us, the babies are very gregarious. But yeah, they eat what they want. They don’t know you didn’t plant it for them!  We’ve wrapped our fruit trees with netting, cause they ruin the fruit so fast with their pecking and poking. My son gave us a couple of blue berry bushes, which are fruiting out really nice – we wrapped those. What to do about the strawberries, that was a sticker.

This is one of our new blueberry bushes. Look closely through that mesh of netting and you can see the berries ripening.

This is one of our new blueberry bushes. Look closely through that mesh of netting and you can see the berries ripening.

My husband made me a cage with some old fencing. It is a big, obstreperous contraption, but I figured, it would keep the dam-ned jays from eating all my strawberries. Every day I go out and lift it up, straining with one skinny arm, while I attend to my berry pots with a watering can in the other arm. I thought to myself, “this is a pain in the ass, but look at all these  berries!”

But the berries continued to be poached. This really pissed me off. I thought it was a  rat. We get an annoying rat almost every year, somewhere. Oftentimes they try to make a nice nest for themselves in our open shed, where we keep shovels and rakes, etc. As soon as they turn up we can smell them, rats really stink.  We use traps, but there’s been times we’ve actually had to chase them down with the dogs and kill them with a shovel, or, in one case, a hockey stick. They’re resourceful, really smart, they can run really fast, and look-out – they can jump like monkeys.  I hate to kill things, but I feel, you mess with me, you’re going to get messed with.

So I daubed a trap up with peanut butter and set it on the table among the pots. Then I went through all the pots and pulled out any with any berry that looked at all ripening and put them in my little red wagon and loaded them into our green house and shut the door.

Next morning I came out to find the trap untouched. Remarkable. A rat that can ignore peanut butter? And no turds – my husband reminded me, that’s why they stink, they just seem to spread turds everywhere.  I was flummoxed. I got the pots out of the green house and went about my business, not sure what to do now. 

A little while later, the dogs and I were playing in the yard, right there next to the strawberry table, when I saw something moving among the pots. A rat in broad daylight?   That’s creepy, I thought, and I went over to look. The intruder exposed himself – it was one of the adult jays.  I couldn’t believe he’d got into my cage.   As I walked toward him cursing a blue streak he hopped across the table as nimble as Jack B. Quick and dropped through the tiniest little gap between the cage and the table top.  I howled for the dogs as he flickered away. Right under our noses!

I tell you, I get mad, at the same time, I have to laugh at these guys, they’re so determined. I can’t hurt them, even if I wanted to. So, I called my husband, see if he had any ideas. He reminded me, we keep a big batch of old shade cloth, we usually cover the tomatoes when the sun gets really hot. Wrap the loose end with the shade cloth, he suggested, they can’t get through that.

So I got a section of shade cloth and wrapped the vulnerable end.

Here is The Cage, end wrapped in shade cloth.

Here is The Cage, end wrapped in shade cloth. There’s Biscuit over there with her ball, waiting to play.

Now I have to lift the shade cloth and then lift the cage when I want to water. I could shower the whole table with a hose nozzle – how wasteful, and then I wouldn’t know if I’d  got every pot. 

They sell strawberries at the store. I’ve bought them. I have a huge bag full in my freezer right now. Why do I frustrate myself trying to grow berries? 

My mom always told me I was contrary.





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